Slim And Slimmer (Part 2)

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11/19/2012 2:33:51 PM

THE IPOD NANO is the purist’s choice: like the original iPod, it’s designed to do one thing well: play music. Well, that and movies. And show photos. And act as a Nike+ pedometer.

OK, it’s designed to do more than one thing but because its multi-touch user interface only looks like iOS (under the skin, it’s much more primitive and running on much more basic hardware), you can’t make it do even more things by installing apps. The icons you see on the two-part Home screen are the only ones you’ll ever get, barring a tweak in a future iOS update.

Still, this relatively simply device has had a pretty radical update. In its previous incarnation (this is the seventh, believe it or not) it was small and square, leading a surprising number of people to conclude that they should wear it as a watch. The disadvantage was that a square screen was useless for watching videos, so this wasn’t supported.

Description: Description: Description: iPod nano 7th gen

iPod nano 7th gen

The new model is styled in a way that recalls its predecessor, with the sides curving around while the top and bottom are squared off, but its front panel is nearly twice as big, accommodating a widescreen LCD and, for the first time, a Home button. To make up for the extra area, the Nano (like its stablemates) has been slimmed down, and is now only 5.4mm deep – less than the tiny shuffle even minus its integral clip. And the Nano is now indeed minus its integral clip, so if you want to strap it to yourself while exercising you’ll need some sort of accessory. On the plus side – the Nike plus side – it now incorporates a pedometer, so you can use the built-in Fitness app to chart your performance without needing any add-ons, although a wireless heart rate monitor can be connected if you have one.

The user interface, which is unique to this device, has been brushed up; the icons are now circular and colourful, so they’re distinct from those in iOS (a trope echoed in the circular icon on the Home button). They give the Nano a feeling of fun, and the symbols are clear enough to leave no doubt about what each ‘app’ does. Each icon is about the size of a thumbprint, and after picking a function you navigate using left and right swipes, so this is a device anyone should be able to work from scratch without any confusion.

An FM radio is still built in, with 15 seconds of pause time, and Apple’s Voiceover screen reader lets you navigate your music collection by sound rather than sight if that suits you better.

There are still physical volume buttons on the left side, and unlike the iPhone and iPod touch there’s a clicker between them for play/pause. It’s not like Apple to complicate a device by adding an extra button, but it’s unobtrusive and much handier than waking the touchscreen. It also partly makes up for the odd lack of an inline remote with the supplied EarPods. There’s also an on/off switch on the top.

The Nano is a great little device, and in some ways our favourite iPod because of its simplicity. But it’s beginning to feel awkward that you can’t get content into it without a cable and iTunes, and at $194 it’s quite pricey for what it does.

Apps and features


Yes, everybody’s favourite passive-aggressive disembodied ignoramus finally comes to the iPod. Remember it only works when you have WI-FI, but Siri in iOS 6 knows a lot more about the UK than before, even grasping the basics of footy results. Other sports are still in development, though. The ability to dictate text – including tweets, Facebook posts and emails – is pretty handy too.

You can also tell Siri to open apps for you, as well as setting flexible reminders and alarms. Just remember: the cake is a lie.

Social media

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Facebook and Twitter are both integrated into iOS 6

Facebook and Twitter are both integrated into iOS 6, so anything you might want to post or tweet you probably can, from the Share button in any relevant app. Integration also means you only ever need to set up your social media accounts in one place, for all apps. You can’t text (SMS) from an iPod, because it doesn’t have a mobile phone connection, but you can use Apple’s own iMessage, which works like texting between Apple users.

Needless to say, Facebook and Twitter are included in Notifications, so you can make sure you never miss an RT or a wall post from your favourite friends. You can choose what’s notified and how so that you can keep tabs on your social life without being constantly pestered by pings.

Photo sharing/editing

Photo Stream is a feature of iCloud that makes your last 1,000 pictures accessible from all Apple devices it’s enabled on under your Apple ID (including iPhoto or Aperture on your Mac), regardless of which device took the photo. You can now also set up Shared Photo Streams to show other people selected pictures via the cloud, particularly handy since you can put together a gallery of pictures that may have come from several sources.

If the limited editing facilities in the Camera app (crop, rotate, auto-enhance and red-eye removal) aren’t enough for you, Apple’s iPhoto – a very different app from its OS X counterpart, but interestingly done – is available for $4.5.


The camera on the back of the iPod touch used to be a bit of a joke – something that Apple included because it was expected, but didn’t want to blow any budget on. It’s now been updated to a very decent 5 megapixel unit, pretty similar to the one in the iPhone 4, which was more than adequate, but with improvements to the lens and support for instant panoramas.

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The camera on the back of the iPod Touch captures HD quality video

While it’s not the most sophisticated camera in the world, it does take excellent pictures, achieving sharp focus and well-judged exposure and white balance in a wide range of circumstances as long as you don’t expect it to work well in the dark. (If you need it to, though, it does have a reasonably effective LED flash.)

It also shoots 1080p Full HD video, which you can edit immediately on your screen if you install iMovie for a ludicrously reasonable $4.5. Plenty of third-[arty apps are available to do more with the camera.

If you use FaceTime, or just like gazing at yourself, you’ll be pleased to note that in an outburst of generosity Apple has fitted the iPod touch with the same front-facing camera as the iPhone 5, a considerably upgraded unit that shoots sharp 720p video and usable 1.2 megapixel stills. Besides FaceTime, which is great but limits you to calling Apple users, it also works with other video calling apps, such as Skype for iOS.


WE LIKE THESE new Apple earphone. Anything, to be honest, would have been better than the much-derided EarBuds, but these are really cleverly designed. Rather than trying to block your ear canal to keep the sound in, which many people find uncomfortable, they sit lightly behind the tragus and antitragus and point the sound at your eardrum from a polite distance. There’s still a small chance that the shape of your ears won’t suit them, but barring that, you get clear, well-balanced sound without having to pump up the volume too much, and while you can still hear what’s going on around you, others can’t hear your music. Don’t expect a strong sense of immersion or pumping bass, but the sound is beautifully listenable.

Description: Description: Description: These are really cleverly designed

These are really cleverly designed

Oddly, the EarPods supplied with both iPods (the shuffle and classic still get the EarBuds) omit the inline volume/play/skip controls and integral mic that come with the iPhone version. This means there’s no play control on the iPod touch expect the touchscreen, and no mic on the iPod Nano (which you’d need to use its Voice Memos feature) unless you supply your own. You can add back the mic and remote functionality with an inline adaptor such as Griffin’s SmartTalk, or just the playback controls with adaptors from the likes of Belkin and iLuv, for a tenner or less, but who wants a clunky black plastic adaptor cluttering their iPod? This seems an annoying way for Apple to shave a few cents off the bill of materials.

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